The Flight into Egypt
‘Flight into Egypt’ is one of the most important works of German painter Adam Elsheimer. The painting shows the family traveling to Egypt during the night to escape the mutilation of male newborns ordered by Herod. The catholic church named Joseph a saint but wanted people to connect with his humanity. Here, Joseph, Mary and Jesus escape from threat of capture and death. Bartolome Murillo uses life-sized figures that rise above the viewer to bring the drama to life. Joseph’s concerned expression casts him as a man protecting his family. The painting was done in 1609 during the Baroque period, and was considered as one of Elseimer’s last creations before he died a year later. The painting of the size was called cabinet painting, which became popular during Flemish Baroque period.
The painting may be brought about by some important factors that have influenced the artist which is defined as the background of Adam Elsheirmer’s and characteristics of his previous works. His father was a master-tailor and he had nine siblings, while he was growing up he developed an interest in art. He studied the basic techniques of German Renaissance art and adapted the early Mannerism style of painting. His first major artistic influence was Gillis Van Coninxloo, a local painter known for his landscape paintings.
From the entire Goudt’s work, it is important that Goudt’s seven engravings are the reproductions and transcriptions of the Adam Elsheirmer’s paintings, therefore Goudt’s seven engravings did represent Elsheirmer’s fame and his reputation to a great extent.
In both artists’ ‘Flight into Egypt’ the size and the representation of the subject matter are the same. The depiction of the biblical event ‘Flight into Egypt”, when Joseph, Mary and Jesus try to escape from the persecution by the Herod the Great. The night setting is revealed via depiction of landscape in the background and the elements of this biblical event. The drama of this scene is vivid because of its unique naturalistic depiction of the light and its detailed contrast between light and darkness.
In the first scene of Elsheirmer’s depiction, we see the three main figures Joseph, Mary and Jesus, who are in the centre of the painting. Joseph is walking and holding the torch in his left hand and it illuminates Mary, holding the baby Jesus and riding on a donkey. In the background of the painting, the left side is the depiction of two figures and a few animals, surrounding the camp fire and on the right side – the depiction of the moon, reflected in the river. The darkness of the painting presents the naturalistic landscape scene to the viewer and rather realistic depiction of the sky and the light. The darkness tone creates a calm and peaceful environment, but at the same time also evoking an opposite feeling of the mysterious unknown fear in the darkness, related to their escape. The whole painting is significantly using the scientific way to portray the sky and light, application of the contrast between light and darkness with the aim to presented its mysteries subject matter of this moment of the holy family’s escape.
Both artworks are in small sizes, namely 36.2 x 41.3 cm. Irrespective of their small sizes, the both artworks are still showing the incredible details of the figures and the sky, by presenting a realistic nocturnal scene to the viewers. Especially with Goudt’s print, we see the use of juxtaposition lines to portray the dark night sky; each line is clearly shown side by side in order. Comparing two works, we could state that the usage of colors in both artworks is different. In Elsheimer’s painting, taking into consideration the depiction of the darkness nocturnal scene, the sky’s color, slowly changing from the moon, through dark to light, it is evident that Elsheimer is using different tones of blue color with the aim to create a dramatic, but realistic view of the sky. Secondly, the distinctive contrast between the sky and the forest are able to present the atmosphere perspective to the viewers, and give the viewer a sense of distance between the holy family, the forest and the night sky. The two artworks are revealing the unbelievable skill of both artists to depict each detail of this scene. In Elsheimer’s painting, the realistic depiction of the scene, by using the different variations of color, is a great evidence of his profound skill. In contrast to the Goudt’s print, we are see the detailed depiction of the fabric on the holy family’s clothes, as well as the plants and the trees in the setting. In the Elsheimer’s painting, the viewers are not able to see the detailed depiction through its lines or texture of the subject. However the great talent and the skill of the painter are presented with the help of perfect application of color variations, contributing to creation of an absolutely realistic scene, specially, if we pay attention to the Gout’s depiction of the night sky, which is clearly shown through the details of the engraved lines. On the lighter part, we are able to see the lines, depicted closely and clearly; on the darker part – the engraved lines are layering on the top of each other. In Goudt’s print, the depiction of the clouds is stronger and more vivid in comparison to Elsheimer’s painting; the depiction of clouds in various tones and shapes, surrounded by the moon and its reflection in the river, help the viewers to imerge into the atmosphere of the scene of the night escape of the holy family.
The composition of the two artworks is practically the same, but the Goudt’s print could be considered a kind of total inversion of the Elsheimer’s painting; it might be the Goudt’s use of the printmaking. First of all it is possible to trace the subject matter and scences from Elsheimer’s painting in those by Goudt; secondly, he used engraving and etching techniques, first putting ink on the plate and then putting the copper plate on paper. The inversion of the two artworks could be explained via presentation of different stages of etching. The final argument is that there is Goudt’s calligraphic of Latin inscription in the bottom of the Goudt’s print, reflecting the dramatic nocturnal through its chiaroscuro of the image.